Neuroscientists subjected volunteers with amusia—difficulty telling different melodies apart and remembering simple t...

Avi on June 23 at 12:48AM

B vs. D

I struggled a lot with this question. The issue I had with the wording of B was that amusia doesn't result from an inability to discern pitch rather the inability to discern pitch is caused by amusia. I picked D because since we know that they can't tell melodies apart, if they are able to understand differences in timing, they would be able to tell them apart. How is that wrong?

3 Replies

Shunhe on June 23 at 10:14PM

Hi @avif,

Thanks for the question! So let’s take a look at what the stimulus is telling us. People with amusia (difficulty telling melodies apart and remembering tunes) undergo an experiment. They are exposed to different pitches, and can’t tell the difference. But they can keep track of the timing.

Now we’re asked for a hypothesis that’s most strongly supported by the statements above. Let’s take a look at (B), which tells us that amuse results more from an inability to discern pitch than from an inability to discern timing. Well, this seems to be supported by the stimulus. Why? Because these people (who have amuse) can tell the difference in timing, but not in pitches, but can still not tell melodies apart. Which means that if they can tell the difference in timing, but not in melodies, then their inability to tell differences in melodies probably has to do more with their inability to tell differences in pitches. And we aren’t told in the passage that the inability to discern pitch is caused by amusia. If anything, amusia is just what we call the inability to discern melodies (which seems to stem at least in part from the inability to discern pitches); it doesn’t have any causal powers. It’s just a label we attach.

Now let’s take a look at (D), which tells us that the ability to tell melodies depends on pitch alone, and not at all on timing. The word “alone” makes this answer choice a very strong one, and one that we should be hesitant about, since the stimulus doesn’t really support the idea that it is pitch, and only pitch, that has to do with telling melodies apart. Maybe it’s 95% pitch and 5% timing, or there are other factors involved. The information in the stimulus doesn’t rule out any of these possibilities, and so (D) is too strong a hypothesis to be supported by what we’re told. So even though what you say is true, and they can’t tell melodies apart and they can’t tell pitches apart but can tell timings apart, we still can’t support that telling melodies apart is ONLY based on telling pitches apart.

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask any other questions that you might have.

Avi on June 24 at 07:08PM

It does. Thanks.

Shunhe on June 24 at 10:34PM

Glad it helped.